Debunking fitness myths

Each day we all talk to people that share stories and it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. I cannot tell you how much time I spend educating friends and clients on the myths we are confronted with. Many myths about fitness have been proven to be wrong.

I am sure you have heard these statements before:

  • Doing crunches or working on an ab machine will get rid of belly fat
  • Machines provide a safer way to exercise
  • Women that participate in resistance training with weights will bulk up and look like a man
  • No pain, no gain

These are all fitness myths. Each of the above statements has been disproven by scientific evidence.

Crunches

First, simply doing crunches or ab exercises over and over will not alone get rid of belly fat. Doing these exercises will help strengthen these muscles, but they will not show as they get stronger unless you decrease your body fat above the abdominals. You cannot pick and choose where to burn fat. You need to decrease your overall body fat percentage to bring your abs to the surface.

Machines

Next, machines must provide a safer way to exercise. This is not always true. Unless the machine is set up for you to use properly, you may be putting yourself in a bad position creating muscular deficiencies. Working strictly on machines also removes the functional aspect of fitness.

Women & weights

Third, if you’re a woman and you exercise like the man next to you, then you will look like them. This is not the case. Women have 20-30% less testosterone then men. The only way you could bulk up as much as him is lifting far more weights than the average woman and having some sort of chemical imbalance. Don’t be afraid of weights. Resistance training will help you lose weight quicker, and keep it off for a long period of time.

No pain, no gain

Last, we hear this saying more than just in relation to fitness: If you’re not feeling pain, then you will not see any gains. This is far from the truth. There should be some soreness a day or two after exercise due to the muscles repairing themselves. This is a soreness or tightness, it is not a pain. Having pain during exercise could promote lifelong harm to your body. If you feel pain during an exercise, one or two things may be happening. You may have a pre-existing injury, or you are exercising out of proper position. If you feel pain, re-adjust to a proper position and see if it comes back. If the pain stays, go and see a medical professional to fix the problem before it is too late.

The bottomline

Often times it is difficult to decipher facts versus myths. Before believing what you hear, research it to find a good scientific answer. It may be true, but often times in fitness, these myths provide people answers as to why you should not exercise or do certain things – many offer invalid justifications.

And, never hesitate to ask me about what you hear on the street – I will gladly find you the truth.

Like what you read? Please comment and share below!

Advertisements

Weight loss, muscle loss, and mind games

Weight loss is a desire for many. When on a journey to lose, we have the misconception that all weight loss is positive weight loss. Weight loss is a secondary component of one of my 2013 goals – bench press my bodyweight. However, I am concerned with the rapid weight loss I am experiencing. I hate to overanalyze, bu I am beginning to overanalyze. The thoughts in my mind, “Is this real?” “Am I losing muscle?” “How come I still cannot see my abs?” “How little must I weigh to see my abs?” “Am I doing too much cardio?” “Am I not eating enough?” “How many weeks will I continue to lose at this rate if I continue what I am doing?” “Am I sick?”scale

Unfortunately, I am not tracking my body fat percentage. (I do not have access to an accurate measuring method at this time.) Further, I failed to take my circumferences at the beginning of the year. Therefore, I am only measuring body weight and tracking my weights lifted.  At this point, my underperformance in measurement tracking is being perceived as an epic failure. Notice my automatic negative thoughts (ANTs)? I am disappointed that I have allowed myself to gauge my improvements on weight at all and even more disappointed that I haven’t tracked numbers that I should have otherwise maintained.

Thankfully, I do not dwell on these thoughts and I am relatively successful with thought stopping. With that said – How do you know when weight loss is attributed to muscle loss?

My truths

In my current situation, I believe it is possible that I have lost some muscle. But to say that I have would be purely anecdotal. I honestly have no idea and all I can say is that it is possible. Honestly, I am not too worried about it. I know that my strength is increasing (evident with my lifting increases). I know that my clothes fit differently.

Because I have obsessive tendencies, I do not want to be too rigid with my  fitness improvement methods. I monitor my diet, but I do not want to begin tracking calories and macronutrients on a daily basis – because I know I will become obsessive with it and it will take over my life. (I primarily only track when I feel like I have not been eating enough.) I eat a real food diet and am meticulous with my nutritional timing.

Losing muscle

My predicament is reinforcing how important it is to find a method for measuring my body fat percentage and definitely time to take my body circumference measurements. Regardless of your starting point, it is important to use body fat percentage (NOT BMI) and circumference measurements. This will be your best indicators of whether you are losing muscle mass along your journey.

The chances are that I have not lost muscle. I have read that it takes 6 weeks to lose 1 pound of muscle. I’m not even sure what that means. Six weeks of inactivity? Six weeks of poor nutrition? What are the conditions? I doubt there is such a simple equation. I do know that if you do not eat adequate amounts of protein you will lose muscle – because protein fuels and builds muscle. The research is undeniable, nothing other than protein will do! I could cite endless sources – if you want sources leave a comment and I’ll send you a few.

I eat plenty of protein. I eat adequate carbohydrates for my level of activity. I life heavy things and I safely put them back down. After thinking it through – maybe too deeply – I am confident that I am maintaining lean muscle mass!

Mind games

My own mind is playing games with me. You see, if I did not lose weight, I would freak out. But I am losing weight – faster than anticipated – and I am freaking out. I have found myself in a lose-lose thought pattern. I worry, “It is coming off too quickly, I must be doing something wrong!” It could be exhausting, but I redirect my thinking to safer topics.

The bottomline

Sometimes we think too much. My shock with my weight loss lead to unproductive thinking – focusing too much on the outcome and not on the process. I carefully planned my workouts and I am meticulous with my nutrition, without being obsessive. I do not really have anything to worry about.

HOWEVER, I want individuals to know that sometimes weight loss is muscle loss – is that desirable?

Is muscle loss something you control for and monitor? – increasing muscle is what will burn more calories in the long term, so do you really want to lose it?

References

Layman, D. K., Evans, E., Baum, J. I., Seyler, J., Erickson, D. J., & Boileau, R. A. (2005). Dietary protein and exercise have additive effects on body composition during weight loss in adult women. J. Nutr. 135(8), 1903-1910

Defining: MY ideal body

 

I was perusing Facebook this morning. Lately, it seems like God is speaking to me through the news feed. He knows what has been weighing heavily on my mind. I have been trying to clearly define my  goal: I WILL be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday (May). I have been using images to define my goals – thus far all images of muscular woman performing some physical feat. Taking a look at the chart below, it hits me that all the images I am drawn towards look like the 10-12% body fat. Wow!…Wow! And I ask myself, which images do I think are the most attractive?

image collageThe last I tested, I was approximately 20% body fat. And the few times I have checked in below that, I didn’t FEEL well. The generally accepted ‘normal’ body fat percentage for a woman in her thirties in 23-27%. And I have been unknowingly setting my goal for 12%….is this realistic? Is this hazardous? What is the benefit? Looking at the above images, I would currently compare myself most closely to the 20-22%. Am I happy with my body? To tell you the truth, I am far from satisfied! To my defense – what woman have you met who truly is 100% satisfied with her body?

For years, I’ve battled disordered eating behaviors and exercise addiction. I even had a boyfriend end a relationship because I was ‘too obsessed with what I ate and going to the gym.’ He said it was too much pressure for him and he felt he needed to live up to the same standards. Mind you – we met at the gym. I didn’t read between the lines at the time – what I heard was that I was too much for him to handle. The reality is that I had an incredibly healthy relationship with food at that time. I often wish I could go back in time and mimic that relationship for current implementation. The real issue was my body dissatisfaction and the overall effect it had on my life and our relationship.

The cycle of undereating, overeating, and episodic binges has taken a toll – physically and emotionally. The period of overtraining has left me with injuries that I will spend my entire life fighting to overcome. I’ve been a guinea pig for insanely difficult workouts. I have tested numerous meal plans – and those most closely resembling a a bodybuilding diet (and that necessary to achieve my perceived ideal body) made me miserable. I’ve tried enough ‘diets’ to know when my mind and body are at optimal performance. A system of chosen deprivation (e.g., eliminating all carbohydrates or dairy) is not ideal for my daily functioning.

So as I continue to define my goal – I find myself DEFINING MY IDEAL BODY. I have to ask myself if that’s what I’m really striving for. What is it I’m really trying to achieve? I know what I would need to do to reach 10% body fat. The workouts don’t scare me and they in fact excite me. But the diet is another story and the diet is 90% of achieving my ideal body. So….is that truly my ideal body? Is that my goal? And what is wrong with my current appearance? My body fat is within healthy range, sometimes dipping to slightly below. And there are risks to low body fat just as there are risks to high body fat (e.g., osteoporosis, amenorrhea).

As of this morning, I’ve decided that I will step away from all vanity aspects of this goal. I WILL be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday! But this will be purely achievement based. And this is going to be FUN and REWARDing!

Treat your body kindly – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (New International Version)